Luc Robitaille tends to make the rounds maintain the Kings relevant


The most well-liked man in the Kings’ organization wears a trim gray coat and navy blue tie as he races about Staples Center.

It is a current Saturday afternoon. Puck drop is two hours away. Luc Robitaille has areas to be.

The Hall of Fame player and third-year Kings president stands up from his table inside the arena’s Lexus Club just before brunch is served. After out the door, the handshakes and smiles come steadily.

Robitaille knows the waiters in this vibrant window-lit restaurant, the 50-50 raffle volunteer operating the dimmed club level hallway outdoors, the elevator operator that shuttles him down to ice level, the group advertising staffer who has organized a pregame meet-and-greet with the neighborhood Black Girl Hockey Club.

From the Zamboni tunnel, Robitaille poses for photographs with youth players who recognize his face — from his in-arena video appearances, quite a few on-camera commitments more than the years, his arms-raised statue that sits front-and-center outdoors Staples Center — and parents who can recall his 1,077-game, 557-purpose profession.

Robitaille moves back upstairs, exactly where season-ticket holders are supposed to be awaiting his arrival at an afternoon gathering inside the arena’s Golden Row bar. Only, ideal now, it is empty. By accident, Robitaille has arrived early.

“We’ll come back later,” he says, creating a speedy note in the calendar app on his iPhone just before uttering the most significant lesson he’s discovered more than 27 years — 14 as a player and 10 as the president of small business operations just before his promotion in 2017 — with the Kings organization.

“It’s an significant issue to do,” he says, “to attempt and touch as lots of men and women as probable.”

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By way of Robitaille’s eyes, this is what the Kings’ inevitable and unending battle for neighborhood relevancy appears like. He understands his franchise’s spot in a frenzied Los Angeles sports market place, that black and silver will never ever permanently paint more than streaks of Dodger blue and Laker gold. That is never ever been Robitaille’s purpose, although, in particular with the Kings’ post-championship rebuild overlapping with star-driven renaissances at pro franchises elsewhere in town.

“It’s just the way our city is,” Robitaille says, sipping a cup of coffee immediately after returning to his brunch table. “To attempt and attain everybody in this town is virtually a error. There’s 16 million men and women. There’s sufficient space for everybody. But you have got to operate tough, for the reason that you know you have got to be relevant.”

So, throughout virtually every single residence game, Robitaille follows this very same routine, creating the rounds to meet as lots of sponsors and fans as he can. He may not be in a position to make everybody a hockey fan. He just desires these who show up to want to come back. The rest of the organization follows his lead.

“The purpose that Luc is excellent now is the very same purpose he was wonderful as a terrible-skating, left-wing, ninth-round draft choose,” Kings Chief Operating Officer Kelly Cheeseman mentioned, laughing. “It’s passion and drive that never ever requires a day off.”

Echoed Kings common manager Rob Blake, a former teammate of Robitaille’s: “He can stroll into a space and everybody will get to know him by the finish of the evening. The passion is significantly the very same.”

Kings general manager Rob Blake and team president Luc Robitaille attend the 2107 NHL Draft in Chicago.

Kings common manager Rob Blake, left, and group president Luc Robitaille attend the 2107 NHL Draft in Chicago.

(Bruce Bennett / Getty Photos)

When Robitaille arrived in the Southland much more than 30 years ago, he knew tiny about what was then the NHL’s Southernmost outpost. He feared he was walking into a hockey wasteland.

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But by his third season in 1988-89, Wayne Gretzky had arrived. All of a sudden, “we have been averaging 13,000-14,000 per game, and saying … this is quite excellent,” Robitaille recalled. “There have been some teams you’d see on Television and there’d be no a single in the stands. A lot of men and women mentioned, ‘This is not a excellent market place.’ I located out, this is a excellent market place, for the reason that they’d never ever won and they nonetheless virtually sold out.”

Practically no a single in the club is much more involved in each the hockey and small business sides of the operation than Robitaille, and fewer nonetheless are as cherished by the fan base. Any discussion about neighborhood relevancy, Robitaille says, has to start out with them.

“We have to make positive they have an understanding of what we’re undertaking,” Robitaille says. “And then, when we’re undertaking excellent, that is when everyone else comes on board.”

His pregame meal completed, Robitaille stops along the concourse for much more fans to snap photographs, then heads up to AEG’s double-wide owner suite behind the net. From right here, he can see it all. The play on the ice nonetheless elicits groans and guffaws from the man who was after only consumed with winning games. But now, he also scans all the action off of it. Winning more than fans has turn into a major priority also, and he is regularly assessing the entertainment worth that his club delivers.

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Nowadays is the team’s initial “Kids Day” of the season, and goalie Jonathan Quick’s daughter is introducing the lineup. There is laughter and applause. Robitaille smiles in approval. But it is also an afternoon game (the Clippers have a game at Staples that evening, a significantly less-than-perfect reality of the 3-group venue) and the stands are spotted with empty seats — the most tangible proof of the Kings’ diminished prominence amongst the city’s sports scene.

Robitaille estimates that there are roughly two.five million hockey fans in and about Los Angeles, almost two million of whom the franchise considers Kings fans. The group has 1.two million followers on Twitter — much more than each of L.A.’s NFL teams, the Angels and the Ducks. Decades of history laid the foundation for pro hockey in this aspect of the planet.

But two Stanley Cup titles have turned winning into the baseline, not a bonus. As the Kings have languished close to final spot for most of the final two years, attendance has lessened. They had a seven-season sellout streak finish in November 2018, and their existing typical crowd size of 16,783 is on-pace to be the lowest in a season considering that 2008-09.

They’ll finish their most profitable decade struggling to drum up interest amid the doldrums of a rebuild. So, Robitaille continues to be the embodiment of the Kings’ efforts to stay relevant — promoting the group all more than once again to a single fan at a time.

“Just attempting to steal fans from the Lakers or Clippers is the incorrect issue to do,” Robitaille says. “You’ve got to know in this town, you spend interest to what you are undertaking, you spend interest to men and women who spend interest to you.”